Congratulations! You accepted a position as camp director and are ready to take on the new-to-you role with excitement and vigor. While you maybe feeling a bit intimidated, overwhelmed and experiencing a bit of imposter syndrome, know that there are a vast amount of resources at your disposal to help boost your confidence and get the job done right.
Take a look at the tips below to help you slide into your role with ease and discover how you can make a difference without rocking the boat too much. That is, unless you want to! Either way, these tips have just what you need to be successful as a new director.
Learn Your State’s Camp Guidelines
Meet with a state camp licensing consultant and go through the state guidelines to review what they have on file for the camp you’re running—if you are taking over an established camp as opposed to starting a new one. Otherwise, familiarizing yourself with state guidelines for camps is a great way to help you find success in your new role as camp director. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions and take lots of notes!
Learn All Camp Traditions
Ingratiate yourself into your camp’s culture by talking to everyone on staff and inquiring about all the camp’s long-standing and new traditions. Do so thoughtfully and with intent, as it does take a while to acquaint yourself with a new culture. When learning about your camp’s culture, do so objectively. Don’t come in and change anything immediately. There’s a reason why these traditions have lasted for so long. Do your best to keep traditions in place, but know that it’s OK to start new ones, too!
Don’t Try to Change Everything at Once
You don’t want to rush in and change everything within a matter of days or weeks. Tackle any issues you may see thoughtfully and with positive intent. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s important, make a list of priorities and go from there. Much like learning all your camp’s traditions, you also need to learn what within your camis working and what isn’t. If there’s anything that needs to be changed immediately, it’s your job to do so, as it will affect positive change. But if there are things that can be considered thoughtfully and changed over time, build a plan and execute it over the amount of time you deem necessary. Remember to pick your battles wisely.
Work With Your Team
In an effort to create positive change, you need to work with your team. Ask them questions about the things they would like to see improved at camp and how they think you should go about doing so. If your staff has great ideas that you would love to see put in place, consider asking them to help make it happen. As cliche as it sounds, teamwork does indeed make the dream work, and there are likely members of your staff who have been wanting to do some great things to help make the camp a better place for everyone.
Take a Class or Course
The American Camp Association offers an interactive course called New Director Orientation for seasoned camp directors, new camp directors, program directors, assistant directors and anyone who is moving (or plans to move) into a leadership position at a camp organization. While this class mostly focuses on summer camp operation, it can be helpful for others as well, as it includes an overview of each aspect of a camp director’s job.
The course includes discussions, lectures and activities designed to address real-life situations that may arise at your camp. It also covers risk management, staff training and more, and is offered both in-person and online, as well as in a blended-learning format.
Prices vary depending on which course format you choose and whether you are a member of the American Camp Association.
Build a Program You’re Proud of
Think about your camp experience as both a participant and a staff member. What stands out as something you absolutely loved about camp, and what stands out as something you would like to see change? What about camp inspired you to make a career out of it? What about camp ignites your passion for it? Take all those thoughts and ideas and make them reality. Build a program you’re proud of!
Don’t forget to ensure your camp is up –to date on best practices, that your staff has completed all the appropriate certifications and that your participants are safe and have the freedom to be themselves.
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ACTIVE’s powerful camp management solutions are the perfect way to save time, improve relationships with camper families and maximize profitability for your camp each year. Our camp management software offers many innovative features to keep your team on top of management tasks, including:
- Online camp registration
- Email marketing & management
- Camp reporting, tracking & analytics
- Family account management
- Integrated merchandising
Connect with us today to get started with the best camp management software on the market—and start putting this powerful technology to work for your camp and participant families.